Flowers, Schmowers (Sneak Peek from Chapter 8: Nortriptyline)


Thursday June 11th, 2010. Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, Los Angeles.

Wait! I’m not ready!

Fioricet and I had been together for 19 years. Longer than Kevin and I had been married. My pulse raced as I heard myself agree to a non-narcotic migraine regimen. My breath came quickly as I watched the neurologist gather up his papers. What had I been thinking in coming to Cedars? That someone could teach me how to take Her as prescribed again? How I could turn back time?

No. I will not go. Leave. Us. Alone.

Yet, another part of me was exhausted. Ready to let go after this overdose. Shaking, still barely able to sit up, the idea of treating my migraines with something else felt like a sensual, cool breeze upon my clammy skin. I was willing to try.

A nurse entered with my first round of DHE (Diphydroergotamine): intensive non-narcotic IV therapy that would relieve my withdrawal symptoms. She stood at the computer typing new chapters into my already long story. The plastic bag swung as she dropped the medicine onto the pole.

“This will make you feel better.”

I watched the clear liquid flow through the plastic tubing. Over a couple of hours, the DHE—like a medicinal Roto-Rooter—blasted Her from my veins. I rubbed my bleary eyes. I had barely slept in five days. Above all else, it was sleep I craved. Sleep, thus, escape from the paralyzing reality that I would never know Her again.

Friday June 11th, 2010. Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, Los Angeles.


My husband does not like to talk about bodily functions, never mind experience them. When we looked after our seven-month old godson every Wednesday for a year, he never changed a diaper, feigning his trademark dry heave every single time. I, on the other hand, revel in being the girl who is super-cool about poop, pee and the like. I am the Anti-Princess who worked as a summer janitor to put myself through theatre school, cleaning blood, vomit and feces off Toronto’s subway platforms. Yet, there my Prince Charmin stood, at the end of my hospital bed, watching me hurl into a kidney-shaped plastic bedpan.

“You OK, honey?” the nurse asked.

I nodded weakly. “Uh, I think that was…"BLAAARGH!"

A transplant patient must have a precise balance of immunosuppressives in their system at all times, by taking them as close to twelve hours apart as possible. Even in chronic rejection, I continued to take my meds to sustain the life of my kidney for as long as possible. As I wiped at the drool strands dangling from my chin, Kevin and the nurse swooped in to eyeball the pan’s steaming contents.

“Did she swallow the Cyclosporine?”

Kevin leaned in. “This one is Cell Cept, for sure.”

“Is this one Cyclosporine?” the nurse squinted.

“No, that’s a gel capsule.”

“And what about this red stuff?” she said, pointing.

“That’s the tomato soup she had for lunch.”

My heart flipped as my husband exhibited a new watermark in protection. During my ’98 biopsy, he had trembled watching the single-packing semi-automatic needle plunge into my abdomen to extract a section of my kidney. With my '08 rejection diagnosis, his valorous wings had sheltered ever tear, and every fear.

Today, post-overdose, Kevin soared over me, circling, assessing every situation, pecking away at anything that might cause me harm: from judgmental nurses to a 5150 neither of us were ready for. To a big pile of puke. The man who hated bodily functions was practically submerging himself in mine.

As the pungent stank of Her remains ribboned up from the plastic pan, we locked eyes. Kevin’s shoulders were slumped, but his eyes glittered with purpose. My pulse quickened. How could I have ever forgotten? The love of my life was standing right in front of me, not lumped, regurgitated, in a plastic trough beneath me.

Kevin, not Fioricet.

My body still ached, but with something else. I was in, all in.

And just for today, grateful She was on Her way out.

In Pillness and in Health Chapter 7: Nortriptyline pg. 118

Henriette, you are from another world. I just adore you. I have lost two very close friends of mine this past week and was feeling kind of down. Then I read your post and I have a huge smile on my face.

— Dale Stewart
So. Moving.

— Nina Flores
I can’t wait to read the whole book. You are amazing.

— Victoria Kay